What the sector stands to lose as more young teachers leave the teaching profession

Over the years there has been a growing concern about the rate at which young teachers are leaving the teaching profession. The reason for this occurrence is well documented and some of the key issues that keep coming up are: 

1.       Poor compensation when balanced against the expectations of the job 

2.      Limited support for further growth and development 

3.     Teachers feel overburdened by the amount of expectation placed on them on a daily basis  

4.     The bureaucratic nature of the profession makes it difficult for young teacher voices to be heard and valued  

While there have been many conversations in the sector about the reasons we are losing young teachers to other industries or even to other countries – we don’t often talk about exactly what we are losing when young teachers exit the profession. At Teachers CAN we are privileged to work with amazing young teachers from across the country and these are some of the things we have identified: 

1.       Young teachers often enter the profession with the drive and energy to make a difference in the lives of the learners in their classes. We have seen how this drive and energy leads to innovation in the classroom and the wider school community and this plays a big role in improving holistic learner outcomes. These teachers are not just concerned about delivering the weekly curriculum requirements. They care about how each child learns and they create opportunities for each one to show up as their best. They help learners build their confidence and provide opportunities for learners to learn about themselves and their peers. 

2.       Young teachers are rooted in the contextual realities of the learners and the communities that they teach in. This becomes evident in both the way they deliver curriculum and their ability relate and connect with learners. These teachers naturally fill the roles of mentors and role models for the learners in their classrooms 

3.       Many young teachers are connected to a wider world of social change. This enables them to create opportunities for the advancement of the schools they teach in. For example, we have seen teachers drive committees aimed at securing funding for school resources or leading groups of learners to participate in national and international opportunities. All of these activities contribute towards building the school’s profile and overall sense of school pride 

4.      These same young teachers show amazing potential for leading the South African education system into the 21st century. The industry risks losing this potential because it’s not able to retain young teachers 

5.      The country stands to lose the big investment that goes into training teachers. Financial aid organizations like NSFAS and Funza Lushaka support thousands of education students towards their 4-year education degree. Once they graduate these teachers find it difficult to access employment opportunities in the public sector. If they are not able to find a post in the private sector they often opt for overseas opportunities and some even leave the profession altogether.  

6.      As more young teachers leave the profession the more difficult it will become to attract young talent into the sector. This is especially important because a large number of teachers are nearing retirement age. The sector needs a more intentional and coordinated effort to retain young teachers and to improve perceptions of the profession as a desirable career path.  

At Teachers CAN we believe that young teachers need to be seen as role players in the education ecosystem and the organization’s work is aimed at making this a reality. We want to do this through:  

  1. Connecting young teachers to each other  
  1. Elevating the profession 
  1. Amplifying young teacher voices 

At the heart of our mission is the Teachers CAN Manifesto, which unites young teachers around five core values, namely that teachers are able to: 

  • Support learners to reach their potential in all aspects of their lives 
  • Engage as equals and for equality in schools 
  • Innovate and own school-wide teaching practices 
  • Play an active role in school structures 
  • Connect to a wider world of social change  

We believe that these conditions are essential for ensuring not only the retention of young teachers in the profession but it will also ensure that the teaching delivers the possible outcomes for every child in South Africa.  

Written by:

Zamabhaca Manila Budu – Teachers CAN and Parent Power operations officer

Juanitill Pettus – Teachers CAN fellowship facilitator